HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD TO DO THEIR HOMEWORK
A regular time and place for your child to do their homework is essential, so this isn’t negotiable each day. Agree with them when they will work after school, timing it so they have had a chance to unwind and have a snack before they start. Then remove any possible distractions such as the tv, mobile phones or siblings! Provide all they need to study close to hand – their workspace can be anywhere in the house, but it should be well-equipped, so they don’t waste time searching every room for a highlighter or a hole punch!
Encourage your child to review what they need to do and prioritise. Perhaps you can have a daily chat about what needs doing, what’s hardest, and what feels impossible and might require extra help from you or from their teacher. It’s always best to tackle the hardest homework first, before they get tired, and then it’s easier to push on to the end of the session if they know the later homework is easier or more fun.
Regular breaks are important if there’s a lot to do. A dash into the garden for a quick game of Swingball (or some Nintendo tennis if it’s raining!) for example will get them moving and help clear their mind ready to return to their work.
Be clever about this. Some children enjoy doing homework, while others need more coaxing and encouragement. Let them see that you value them doing their homework, but in a relaxed way that doesn’t apply any pressure. Try to be generally positive in the way you talk about it – try talking about study and learning or exploring knowledge rather than work. It can help to show a positive attitude to completing tasks by doing “work” of your own while they study, such as essential jobs around the house, reading a book or newspaper, or paying the bills and checking your bank statements online. Children can naturally feel resentful if they are having to work while you watch tv or scroll through Facebook on your phone.
You can also help their work seem engaging and fun if they ask you to be involved, but remember it is their homework and not yours. The input should be theirs, just as the grades and any rewards or consequences at school will be theirs alone.
Rewards and consequences
Younger children will generally want to please you; older children are a bit different, but they can understand better that the work they do is for themselves and their own future success, career and earnings! Set expectations and make clear the rewards for working and the consequences for not doing the work. Make praise the primary reward for your child’s completion of their work and remember to be specific about praising the effort and for example how they overcame obstacles for a piece of work, rather than how clever you think they are.
As an additional incentive, some children like to collect stickers as rewards for doing their work, and to earn a treat at the end of the week. This type of incentive can work, but it’s best to only incentivise things that you might treat them to at the weekend anyway, such as a bowling trip or an ice cream after their swimming class. Just a nice thing to do together, but it’s actually earned by them. This provides an early exposure to the “work hard, play hard!” way of living. We would advise against offering material things or money as a form of bribery, because study – and ultimately success and advancement that results- should be its own reward!
“I hate maths! I’m not doing this stupid homework!”
The key question here, is: why do they think they hate maths, or English, or homework in general?
There is almost always an underlying reason for this type of protest and resistance to study in general or on a particular subject and as a parent you need to investigate. Talk to your child to ask for their reasons and then talk to their teacher. Also have a think about the context at home and whether this might be attention seeking behaviour in response to changes such as a house move or a new baby. When a younger child is not looking to please you by doing as you wish, ask yourself what else is going on.
In some cases, an undiagnosed learning difficulty may be involved, and if you suspect this you will need to speak with the head teacher and the school’s SENCO. Don’t struggle on alone; parents know their child best and if you suspect something is wrong then you need to enlist the help of your child’s school (and if that fails you can ask your GP to refer you for an assessment with an educational psychologist).
Of course, the issue could be with the homework itself. It could be too hard or too easy, as your child may have been put into the wrong group for their ability. Again, a conversation with the school is a good starting point, whatever the age of your child. It is vital that homework problems are investigated, if standard encouragement and incentives simply don’t work.
Talk with your child and really listen to them, talk to their teachers if you need to and talk to the head teacher if you need extra support. Educational consultants can provide invaluable extra support and there is always extra help and a listening ear available at JK Educate if you need it.
Homework is a key part of school life and invaluable in helping children to become independent learners; ideally your child will accept this happily at a young age and learn to enjoy this type of individual learning. In any case, we hope that our advice has given you some guidance on how to encourage children to do their homework and that the pleasure in a job well done will come to them all eventually.
Lorrae Jaderberg – JK Educate